A Review of the Roy Bailey CD
"Below The Radar"
"Below The Radar"
by Roy Bailey
Fuse Records CFCD407
This review is written by Dai Woosnam, firstname.lastname@example.org, 8/09
To Brits, Roy needs no introduction. And the cognoscenti in the worldwide Folk community will also be familiar with his work.
But if you have just come here from Planet Mars, let me tell you that
Roy is an acclaimed veteran British folk singer who has a considerable
body of work behind him.
And now to his latest.
It has a heck of a fine title for an album. It immediately conjures up
in the potential listener, thoughts of the “samizdat” and of hidden
jewels, that are a million miles removed from the (radar controlled)
commercial airwaves. Not for nothing did Archie Fisher say (when Roy
had used the phrase in casual conversation with him): “What a great
title for a CD”.
And Roy did not hang about: he decided to act on the advice.
But the question is, is it the album Roy thinks it is? Is it that
celebration of the non-mainstream? And if it is that celebration, does
he pull it off artistically?
Well the answer to the first part is an unequivocal yes. Sure, I was
familiar with the majority of the songs here, but they are assuredly
not songs you would hear sung on the upper deck of the Clapham omnibus.
But the answer to the second question, is a little less emphatic.
In an effort to surround himself with a dream team of musicians, Roy
bided his time and waited for them to each become free. Though, that
said, when the great Roy Bailey comes calling, I cannot imagine even
such luminaries as John Kirkpatrick, Martin Simpson, Donald Grant, Andy
Cutting and Andy Seward will hesitate in saying “yes” for any more than
a nanosecond. And these stellar names, indeed did him proud at every
And talking of performances, nobody shines brighter than Roy himself.
Amazing to think that he is now 73 years young: and whilst that
unforgettably special voice of his, does not have quite the power and
cutting edge in the upper register, (of yesteryear), it still remains a
formidable instrument. It is a vocal milometer capable of going all
round the clock, once again. Look out Pete Seeger at 90. Roy Bailey is
coming up fast on the rails.
So then, the performances, are top-drawer: that is a given, throughout
the CD. I do have some reservations though regarding the song
Hey, I have always thought The Road To Dundee to be a beautiful song.
But golly, hardly one “below the radar”. Indeed at one time, Max
Boyce's version was seemingly played wall-to-wall for about the best
part of 5 years, on Radio Wales. And, admirer though I am of the songs
of Jim Page, I am not sure that one of the four of his compositions
here quite cuts it as a song: Anna Mae, might have a heck of a story
behind it, but methinks it does not have a big future ahead of it! (As
a song to receive cover versions, I mean. That said, there is no
accounting for artistes' tastes.)
But those reservations apart, there are some lovely choices here.
Tom Paxton's own version of his self-penned “How Beautiful Upon The
Mountain” is a track rarely off my CD player, but Roy adds a little
something to it in my estimation, not so much to the slight changes he
makes to the lyric (with TP's consent) “in order that the song connects
with our experience here in the UK”, but in his British pronunciation
of the name “Isaiah”! Yes, you can't know how refreshing that is
to a British ear! (Re the lyric changes though: in truth, I never had
any trouble relating to Tom's original lyrics, and whilst Roy's changes
work perfectly well, I feel vaguely patronised and talked down to. Like
I am too much of a dunce to get Paxton's original words. Which I am
sure was not Roy's intent, but hey, that's what I feel. Like he is
messing about with the King James Bible, or some such!)
Great to hear again Timothy Winters: that Charles Causley poem set to
Leon Rosselson's tune. Again, perhaps not exactly one's first choice
for “below the radar”: I have several recorded versions in my
collection. The Rosselson, the Barry Skinner, the Alex Atterson are
just three that come to mind. And best of all of course, the poem
itself, read by the author on his Caedmon LP, “Causley Reads Causley”.
But whether it was down to Roy's interpretation, I don't know, but with
this new version, I developed a whole new take on the lad Winters
Whereas before, I had always found him a character worthy of my
sympathy, I now – maybe it is my own advancing years giving me the
perspective? – found him a positive HERO for surviving both his
straitened family circumstances, and the educational establishment!
Nice to see a song by George Papavgeris featured. Friends Like These
has good sentiment, and a chorus that lends itself perfectly to Roy's
But I have left till last, the artistic high water mark of the album. I
refer to Ian Campbell's The Old Man's Tale. This really was “below the
radar” in that it was a song I had clean forgotten, but one which I saw
Ian's group perform several times, back in the days when I was a member
of their Jug O' Punch folk club in Birmingham.
I am stunned at how I had forgotten such a powerful song, and thank Roy
for reminding me. I promise not to forget it again.
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to Dai Woosnam.
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